A single mum of two shares her thoughts about the festive season, and why the pressure is heightened for single parents at this time of year.
‘Tis the season to be jolly…but in reality, Christmas is a time I look forward to but dread, almost in equal measure.
Almost every day we are bombarded with images of the perfect family celebrating the perfect Christmas. Mum and dad with their children enjoying plenty of food and opening their various Christmas presents. Everyone is happy and smiling, and this makes me feel so guilty.
Why? Because like nearly a quarter of British families, I’m a lone parent desperately trying to create the ‘perfect’ Christmas and failing. I’m in debt from using credit cards so that I can buy gifts for my teenage son, in fact, I’m still paying for last Christmas. Why should he go without because of my poor life choices? His dad has never seen him, never sent him a birthday card or Christmas card. It has always been down to me to make Christmas as special as I can.
I never expected or wanted to be a single parent, my own parents have been married for 39 years and Christmas has always been a big occasion – plenty of food, decorations, and gifts.
Christmas Eve is my favourite part of the festive season, now that my son is a teenager Santa doesn’t visit our house so we have created new traditions instead. We usually go to the cinema or buy a new DVD, we stock up on snacks and have a cosy night. Once he’s in bed I creep downstairs with his gifts and set everything up ready for the morning.
On the big day, I watch him open his gifts and then we go to my parents for more gifts and lunch. Late afternoon we come home and my son gets to grips with his new stuff. Then it’s the time I dread – once my son is in bed I pour myself a glass of wine and start to cry. I cry because another year has gone by where I’ve got myself into more debt to satisfy someone else’s idea of the perfect Christmas. I cry because another year has gone by and my son feels different and hurt because he doesn’t have a dad. He doesn’t even want his dad really just ‘a’ dad. He is the only boy in his group of friends that comes from a single parent family and it kills me that I can’t give him the ‘perfect’ family unit.
Don’t get me wrong I love my kids (I have a five-week-old baby whose dad has also decided he doesn’t want to be involved, but that’s another story). I am incredibly proud of my eldest and I love being a mum. I probably don’t give myself enough credit for everything I do single-handedly during the year.
However, Christmas is the loveliest and loneliest time of the year and the bombardment of perfect family Christmas adverts only makes it harder.